Emily Tan
May 15, 2015

Owned-first approach: Battle lines drawn in push for owned media

From a heritage of media buying, agencies have introduced planning processes that put a brand’s owned media front and centre.

Personal finance: TC Bank customised its most basic owned media (see case study below)
Personal finance: TC Bank customised its most basic owned media (see case study below)

It’s no coincidence that the rise of the ‘owned-first approach’ touted by several media agencies has come to the fore at the same time ‘content marketing’ has become an industry buzzphrase. With margins gleaned by media agencies from paid media steadily shrinking, and the sums of money clients pump into content marketing growing, it makes sense that the agencies would follow suit.

Cathay Pacific, for example, has recently started publishing travel articles related to destinations it flies to. The airline has also been putting together a digital editorial team. “The approach has evolved throughout our customers’ journey, digital and demand from customers have been the main drivers for evolving owned media,” explains Dennis Owen, manager of brand marketing at Cathay Pacific. 

If a brand wants to have a voice in consumer conversations, if it wants to be visible, it has to invest strategically in owned media, says Jayant Murty, director of brand strategy, media and integrated marketing at Intel Asia. 

In online advertising, Murty adds, every paid engagement must lead the consumer to an owned platform. Intel’s iQ content platform, for example, is just one of many strategies the  brand uses to influence consumer perception and conversations.

“The customer experience is the most significant battleground,” says Chris Harrison, ZenithOptimedia’s CSO in Asia-Pacific. The customer, he continues, is influenced by about 30 to 40 touchpoints with a brand. “Our research, ROI Touchpoints, which is based on nearly 800,000 consumer interviews, shows that in the customer journey it is not paid media but owned media touchpoints that really tip the balance into conversion and loyalty.”

A similar breakdown by MEC media’s proprietary research, Momentum, shows that out of 30 touchpoints, around 11 fall in the category of ‘owned media’. 

“Owned media is best for fostering engagement,” says MEC’s Asia-Pacific chief strategy officer Raj Gupta. “Unlike paid media, owned media has long-term value as an asset.”

But while media agencies may be framing the approach as an ‘owned-first strategy’, all experts agree that it’s not about pushing an owned agenda ahead of paid and earned. The approach is necessitated by two factors: that media agencies, historically, have been paid first and only; and that marketers too traditionally have focused on paid and neglected owned.

“To me the interaction of the three is the really important thing,” says Gupta.

No brand can hope to build a successful content site without the amplification of paid, says Murty. “You would have to be very lucky.”

On the other hand, a paid-only approach would take 1.5-times the funds to net the same results as an integrated paid-owned-earned strategy, says Sapna Nemani, MD of strategy at Starcom Mediavest Group Greater China.

Clients have also been allocating increasing amounts of their budgets towards owned media, says Gupta, citing a recent study by Gartner, which estimates that about 42 per cent of a marketer’s digital budget is now dedicated to the creation and maintenance of owned media.

So of course, all agencies, not just media, are jockeying for a slice of the pie. But because content marketing is down to “who can tell the best story”, creative agencies are the natural leads, according to Cathay Pacific’s Owen. “But, any agency has the potential to lead,” he adds. 

Public relations firms are also fighting to own the brand’s voice. “Our industry is often made up of ex-journalists, and that gives us a creative distinction and advantage,” says Jye Smith, SVP, head of strategy and operations, APAC at Weber Shandwick’s integrated arm, I/O. “Creative has a marketing mindset, but it takes an editorial mindset to be a publisher.”

Media agencies in general, though, are only partly interested in elbowing in on content creation. Mostly, the approaches to owned media they are pursuing are using data and analytics to help brands optimise owned content, planning strategy and engaging the right partners for execution. 

“Our focus,” says SMG’s Nemani, “is to understand people at an individual level so our clients can reach the right people at the right time, by the right medium, with the right message.”

CASE STUDY TC Bank makes savings personal

Dwarfed by large, global players with big budgets, TC Bank needed to differentiate itself to win new customers — yet on a small budget. Based on ethnographic research and one-to-one interviews, ZenithOptimedia found that for Taiwanese customers, the savings accounts symbolises something personal and special.

Many recall their first savings book and treasure it as a physical reminder of one of life’s milestones. So the agency put the design of TC Bank’s most personal ‘owned media’ property in the hands of its consumers by creating a microsite where users could customise the covers of their books.

Facebook was used to drive engagement and, to encourage walk-ins, every branch had a DIY station. The initiative resulted in 15 per-cent growth in new savings customers in just one month.

More than 10,000 personalised bank books were downloaded from the microsite and it is now a permanent feature.

Our view: ‘Owned-media first’ is the media agency’s entry to content-marketing and, ultimately, the customer experience. Please comment below or write to [email protected].


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